Pilots, Traffic Controllers and Aircraft Dispatchers Texting Each Other?

The airline industry is certainly not behind on the times. Pilots, air traffic controllers, and aircraft dispatchers have begun communicating in a very different, yet modern way. The art of texting has officially made it into the friendly skies. Will there be texting and flying laws for these sky buses? Well, it’s not that kind of texting.  

We aren’t talking about emoji’s, memes, and the occasional “lol”. Nope, communication between the pilots, ATC, and aircraft dispatchers is changing from traditional radio into a text-based system.

The system, known as FAA Data Communications, is federally funded and is slow-out-the-gate in terms of implementation. So far, only aircraft that have been equipped with the right tools can take advantage of this new feature.

So far, it has generally been used for takeoff and clearance instructions between air traffic controllers and flight crew. Text messages are sent directly to the flight crew, who can then respond with a receipt notifying the sender that the message has been read.

Aircraft dispatchers will likely join the trend as more planes are equipped with these features.

Everyone agrees that the system is much safer than radio communication. Written clearance and instruction can be followed more closely and there’s less chance for human error.

The most common error in the traditional radio communication is mishearing numbers. Additionally, voice clearance takes much longer than text clearance, faster landing and takeoff times will likely safe airlines millions of dollars long-term.

The system is not ready for wide-spread distribution yet because there are not enough contingency plans and backup equipment to ensure that flights will remain safe if FAA Data Communications goes offline.

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